135 - Undercover Brothers: Philosophy in the Būyid Age

Posted on

Miskawayh, al-‘Āmirī, al-Tawḥīdī, the Brethren of Purity and Ismā'īlī missionaries bring together philosophy with Persian culture, literature and Islam.



Further Reading

• P. Adamson, “The Kindian Tradition: the Structure of Philosophy in Arabic Neoplatonism,” in C. D’Ancona (ed.), Libraries of the Neoplatonists (Leiden: 2007), 351-70.

• P. Adamson (ed.), In the Age of al-Fārābī: Arabic Philosophy in the Fourth/Tenth Century (Warburg Institute Colloquia 12), London: Warburg Institute, 2008.

• M. Arkoun, L’humanisme arabe au Ive/Xe siècle: Miskawayh philosophe et historien (Paris: 1982).

• N. El-Bizri (ed.), The Ikhwān al-afāʾ and their Rasāʾil: an Introduction (Oxford: 2008).

• J. Kraemer, Philosophy in the Renaissance of Islam (Leiden: 1986).

• J. Kraemer, Humanism in the Renaissance of Islam (Leiden: 1992).

• I.R. Netton, Muslim Neoplatonists: An Introduction to the Thought of the Brethren of Purity (London: 2002).

• E. Rowson, A Muslim Philosopher on the Soul and its Fate (New Haven: 1988).

• E. Rowson, “The Philosopher as Littérateur: al-Tawḥīdī and his Predecessors,” Zeitschrift für Geschichte der arabisch-islamischen Wissenschaften 6 (1990), 50-92.

• S. Vasalou and J. Montgomery (trans.), Abū Ḥayyān al-Tawḥīdī and Abū ʿAlī Miskawayh: the Philosopher Responds. An Intellectual Encounter from the Tenth Century, 2 vols (New York: 2019).

• P.E. Walker, Early Philosophical Shiism: the Ismaili Neoplatonism of Abū Ya‘qūb al-Sijistānī (Cambridge: 1993).

• P.E. Walker, amīd al-Dīn al-Kirmānī: Ismaili Thought in the Age of al-ākim (London: 1999).


Declan Foley on 2 July 2013

Wonderful series

Having being educated in 1950s Ireland in a catholic education system, which averred there was only one truth, I find this series fascinating.

Thank you so much for these podcasts

Brian on 30 July 2013


Hi, Peter, very much enjoying your podcasts on Islamicate philosophy. You mentioned in this episode that Al-Amri was responsible for assigning Quranic terminology to Neoplatonist concepts, like Aql/Pen, Nafs/Tablet, &c. Which text does Al-Amri mention this in? This is a fascinating topic for me as I am looking at a later text with Rajab al-Bursi and it would be great to know more about the tradition from which this is derived.

It is mainly due to your work that I no longer mind getting caught in traffic :)

In reply to by Brian

Peter Adamson on 30 July 2013


"Traffic antidote," I'll add that to the potential uses of the podcast!

The text I was thinking of is his reworking of the Liber de Causis/Arabic Proclus. It is called Kitab al-Fusul fi-l Ma'alim and has been studied and translated in an excellent book (in German) by Elvira Wakelnig. Here's a link to the book.


In reply to by Peter Adamson

Jonathan Jonsson on 18 April 2022

Neoplatonism + Kalam = <3

Dear Peter! If I may ask a slightly delayed followup (only 9 years), is there another glossary with comments that you can recommend for how terms like "qalam" and "'aql" overlap with Neoplatonic terms inherited from Proclus and others? Wakelnig's book is unfortunately 200 euros too expensive for me and not accessible in my local library. I read German, French and Arabic if you know another one that isn't in English. I ask because I work with contemporary Arabic fiction now and one of the novels I study directly quotes the beginning of Al-kāmil fī al-tārīḫ by ibn al-ʾAṯīr where he evaluates testimonies discussing whether God created the Tablet first, or the Pen which wrote the world into existence. I figured there was some general reference to the logos there, but I completely missed the Neoplatonic dimension. I wonder what else I may have missed in the symbolism just because I don't know how these terms overlap.

In reply to by Jonathan Jonsson

Peter Adamson on 19 April 2022

Pen and tablet

I don't know of a commented glossary as such but this comes up mostly in work on the Ismailis. So if you look up the work of Daniel De Smet for instance, that would be relevant. Actually the most direct route might be the chapter on the Ismailis in this book which I co-edited; if you send me an email (peter.adamson@lrz.uni-muenchen.de) I can send you a PDF of the relevant chapter.

Philosophy in the Islamic World: 8th-10th Century (Leiden: Brill, 2016). [English translation of Grundriss der Geschichte der Philosophie, Philosophie in der islamischen Welt 1: 8.-10. Jahrhundert.]

Add new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.